Summer Sports Ruled Out

High School Athletics Year Officially Over

The Virginia High School League Executive Committee voted on Thursday to cancel its spring sports season for the rest of the 2019-20 calendar year due to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus.

For our two local high schools, Rockbridge County and Parry McCluer, those sports include baseball, softball, soccer, tennis, outdoor track and field and, for RC, lacrosse.

After initially delaying the start of the season two weeks and then suspending it in late March, executive committee members had discussed allowing high schools to have athletic events in the summer, but they determined in a vote in Thursday’s Zoom video-conference meeting that it was not possible to have a sports season without putting people at risk. The executive committee is primarily composed of school principals, athletic directors and superintendents from across the state.

“This extremely difficult decision was made knowing the great disappointment our student-athletes, academic activity participants, coaches, administrators, parents, and their communities will experience. We share those same feelings as well,” said VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun in a statement released on Thursday. “We especially grieve with those senior athletes and activity participants who will not have an opportunity to represent their school or wear their school jersey one final time after years of hard work and dedication.”

“Any options for the spring sports season would require that COVID-19 no longer be a threat and pose no health risks to our student-athletes or to the public,” Haun added. “Sadly, the situation has not changed and has made it impossible to have a spring season without putting people at risk.”

“While we recognize the importance sports has on our students and communities, we need to follow all the regulations and recommendations from the governor, the Virginia Department of Health and the [Center for Disease Control and Prevention],” Haun continued. “Every decision we make, and will make looking forward, will be in the best interest of our student-athletes and the public. Safety will always be our number one priority.”

On Friday, the RC and PM athletic directors shared their reactions to this decision.

PM athletic director Mike Cartolaro said that health and safety are the top priorities. When the VHSL Executive Committee announced there could possibly be athletic events over the summer, with practice in June and games and meets in July, “It was a last opportunity to save the spring season. … They knew it was a long shot at best.”

Cartolaro, who has been PM’s athletic director for a year and the school’s head boys basketball coach for four years, said he especially feels for the seniors who didn’t get to participate in their final spring sports season. “It’s brutal for the seniors, and that’s a horrible way to end your career,” he said. “You can’t sugarcoat words on that one, and now the rising senior class may be staring at the situation.”

RC athletic director Rick Lollis, who is retiring at the end of this school year after 36 years in education, said, “The news of the cancellation definitely had an impact on the seniors, and you truly have to feel their disappointment, but at the same time we hope that, with this decision made by the VHSL, all players, coaches and spectators will come out of this pandemic healthy and safe.”

“Our seniors at RCHS have always found a way to rise up through uncertainty, and I am sure that they will once again prevail and become some of the most successful adults as they pursue their after-high school career and goals,” he added.

Lollis noted that the spring season was “an exciting time” for several coaches beginning their head coaching careers, and they were excited with the staff and the teams’ potential. “RCHS spring sports will be back in 2021 with a group of players and coaches that will be ready to work hard and be successful,” Lollis said. Alluding to the players, coaches and community, he said, “We will prevail and return to academic and athletic success.”

Cartolaro said he’s hopeful that, in a few months, there will be vaccines available that can halt the coronavirus and allow sports to return. “When the only thing you’ve got to get excited about is a Sunday night documentary, that’s tough,” he said, referring to “The Last Dance,” the documentary miniseries that follows the career of Michael Jordan, focusing on his final championship season, 1997-98, with the Chicago Bulls. “I got excited when they got talking about the NFL schedule.”

The VHSL Executive Committee has agreed to meet again on June 25 – but could meet sooner depending on Gov. Ralph Northam’s reopening plan – to discuss the league’s policies for out-of-season practices in July and the status of fall sports.